Anti-Latino Racism: The Case of Housing

Anyone who has ever purchased or sold property knows it can be a time-consuming and stressful event. There are credit checks, endless forms to fill out, and fees and points to pay. However, imagine being subject to what looks like extortion (See Cal. Pen. Sec. 518-519). by using a threat to report immigration status just for trying to conduct the normal business of life that families engage in, like the sale of a home. This is exactly what happened to my parents – lifelong residents and citizens – when they recently sold their condominium in California. A buyer tried to use what he believed to be their vulnerability because of immigration status (or perhaps some other assumption about their status as criminals because they are Latino) to take advantage of them.

Just before the inspection took place, the white buyer sent my relative (who was assisting them in the transaction) an email demanding my parent’s social security numbers in an affidavit. The following is the buyer’s email:

Your parents needed to state their Social Security numbers and affidavit for the final disclosure. You must get that information TODAY, or it could be inferred that your father may be classified as an illegal immigrant or implicated in some other issue, and that will complicate everything. If…I do not receive this information today, I will cancel both inspections set for tomorrow 1PM. Time is of the essence now on the calendar. You know that I will back out of the purchase if proper papers are not in order on time.

This request by represents just one example of the many racist experiences Latinos face when engaging in perfectly normal events in this country such as buying or selling property. It is part of the consequence of what Joe Feagin calls the white racial frame, where many white Americans act on stereotypes, racist narratives, images, and emotions that lead to discriminatory action towards people of color, which are rationalized in a world view that justifies white racial superiority.

It is also an example of what law professor Bill Hong Hing terms a process of de-Americanization, which includes racially profiling groups out of the notion or conception of an American. It has resulted in defining Latinos as “not real Americans, not part of us.” Professor Hing argues that this process has the insidious ability to perpetuate itself in multiple generations. Indeed, my research on Latino lawyers and Feagin and Cobas’s research on middle class Latino professionals underscore Hing’s argument. What my parents experienced in their real estate transaction is sadly the kind of racism they have experienced their entire lives in America.

The current racialization of Latinos, including Latino immigrants, includes being defined out of the “American” community, and therefore, undeserving of aspects of the American Dream. This type of prejudice and de-Americanization is something Feagin argues we are all taught over the decades of our lives. Latinos are racialized to be laborers, not professionals; to be “illegal,” “criminal,” not deserving of the privilege of participating in the real estate market. Examples of this sort of reinforcement of the white racial frame, are a constant in American society, one encouraged and enhanced by the dehumanizing and “othering” of Latinos including citizens and long-time residents such as my parents. The white racial frame is also reinforced as a part of the larger political debate around immigration where all Latinos are seen as undocumented, undeserving, un-American. Until national political entities—particularly the GOP—realize that for policy purposes their anti-Latino rhetoric results in the racialization of all Latinos as “illegal” then they will never gain significant traction among the growing Latino constituency.

However, this type of discrimination and prejudice must be challenged at multiple levels—legally, socially, politically, culturally, so that acts such as what appear to be intimidation and prejudice on the part of the white buyer above no longer remain part of acceptable societal behavior in a nation that considers itself to be democratic and equitable. Some may believe that the comment: “or it could be inferred that your father may be classified as an illegal immigrant or implicated in some other issue” is a lack of civility. However, I believe it is another perfect example of the white racial frame at work.

Currently 17 percent of Americans identify as Latino and this figure will go up to 30 percent in the next two decades. If middle-class lifetime citizens and residents are treated this way without a significant moral outrage against this kind of racism what does it portend for the future of our ethno-racial society?

In the meantime, until this type of discrimination and prejudice is challenged widely we will not create the change we need in how whites see themselves, and how they see people of color. Making an ethno-racial democracy work will take many voices raised and even more minds changed to understand the demands of social equity in American society.

DOJ: Ferguson Police Engaged in Systemic Racism

Today the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released their report the Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department, following the shooting death of Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson police officer.

The 102-page report documents the systemic racism that the police department of Ferguson, Missouri engaged, and it reads a bit like a piece of sociological research. The methodology included the following:

we interviewed City officials, including City Manager John Shaw, Mayor James Knowles, Chief of Police Thomas Jackson, Municipal Judge Ronald Brockmeyer, the Municipal Court Clerk, Ferguson’s Finance Director, half of FPD’s sworn officers, and others. We spent, collectively, approximately 100 person-days onsite in Ferguson. We participated in ride-alongs with on-duty officers, reviewed over 35,000 pages of police records as well as thousands of emails and other electronic materials provided by the police department. Enlisting the assistance of statistical experts, we analyzed FPD’s data on stops, searches, citations, and arrests, as well as data collected by the municipal court. We observed four separate sessions of Ferguson Municipal Court, interviewing dozens of people charged with local offenses, and we reviewed third-party studies regarding municipal court practices in Ferguson and St. Louis County more broadly. As in all of our investigations, we sought to engage the local community, conducting hundreds of in-person and telephone interviews of individuals who reside in Ferguson or who have had interactions with the police department. We contacted ten neighborhood associations and met with each group that responded to us, as well as several other community groups and advocacy organizations.”

What they found was certainly not surprising for regular readers here, but it was no less shocking for its grim familiarity. The stories of the routine, systematic, racist practices of the Ferguson Police Department (FPD) reveal that the African American citizens of that municipality live under a repressive, brutal regime that circumscribes the boundaries of their lives in ways that appear totalizing and inescapable. Through a pattern of police stops that the report deems “improper” and likely unconstitutional for things like jay-walking, coupled with a revenue-generating scheme when the inevitable violations occur, followed by an elaborate system of fines, penalties and warrants for failure to appear in court over those violations, the predominantly white FPD maintains an effective system of apartheid against the predominantly black residents of the town of Ferguson. This is a moral outrage, and it is also life-threatening in its consequences for African American residents.  Here is one account:

While the record demonstrates a pattern of stops that are improper from the beginning, it also exposes encounters that start as constitutionally defensible but quickly cross the line. For example, in the summer of 2012, an officer detained a 32-year-old African-American man who 19 was sitting in his car cooling off after playing basketball. The officer arguably had grounds to stop and question the man, since his windows appeared more deeply tinted than permitted under Ferguson’s code. Without cause, the officer went on to accuse the man of being a pedophile, prohibit the man from using his cell phone, order the man out of his car for a pat-down despite having no reason to believe he was armed, and ask to search his car. When the man refused, citing his constitutional rights, the officer reportedly pointed a gun at his head, and arrested him. The officer charged the man with eight different counts, including making a false declaration for initially providing the short form of his first name (e.g., “Mike” instead of “Michael”) and an address that, although legitimate, differed from the one on his license. The officer also charged the man both with having an expired operator’s license, and with having no operator’s license in possession. The man told us he lost his job as a contractor with the federal government as a result of the charges.

This account is not an isolated incident, but rather suggests the broader pattern of racial disparity in Ferguson.

The FPD also used police dogs against low-level, nonviolent offenders, according to the report. In 14 of the police dog attacks, all those attacked were African Americans, including one minor. The use of dogs against African American citizens conjures an earlier era of repression when dogs were key part of upholding Jim Crow. The reintroduction of trained attack dogs against African Americans raises questions about the progress the U.S. has made on civil rights.

The DOJ report also reveals a small cache of emails that circulated in the Ferguson Police Department in the days and weeks following the death of Michael Brown. Here is a recap of these provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Racist Emails

That this new technology – email – is joined with the old technologies of trained attack dogs, bullets, and policing practices routed in racist brutality – highlights the mix of old and new mechanisms of racism that circulate today. In taking stock of the racist emails, the DOJ report has this to say:

“The racial animus and stereotypes expressed by these supervisors suggest that they are unlikely to hold an officer accountable for discriminatory conduct or to take any steps to discourage the development or perpetuation of racial stereotypes among officers.”

The cold, bureaucratic language of ‘racial animus’ seems too tepid for a police force that murders an 18-year-old, leaves his body in the street for hours, and then sends racist ‘joke’ emails around afterward. This, it is safe to say, is looking into the abyss of depravity that is white supremacy.

Expressed in pie chart form (h/t @digiphile) the racial disparities in Ferguson policing practices look like this:

DOJ_Ferguson01

This is a textbook illustration of what the term “disproportionate” means. If the stops and arrests of African Americans were proportional to their percentage of the population, those charts at the bottom there would both read “67%” – but since they’re higher, that’s disproportionate. In other words, something else is going on here. Something systematic having to do with race. Here’s another set of charts from the DOJ:

DOJ_Ferguson02

 

This kind of stark racial disparity is characteristic of what we, in the U.S., are taught to believe happened in the distant Jim Crow past, or in apartheid South Africa, but we have trouble believing this is happening now, in our own time.

To be sure, this is not an isolated police department, this is not unique, or an unusual set of racial disparities.

 

This is America.

Research Brief: Recent Publications on Race and Racism

Here is our latest update on some of the recent scholarly publications the sociology of race and racism. A couple of this research (e.g., Chaudry, Velasquez) could also be categorized as digital sociology, but more about that in a future post.

As always, I’ve noted which pieces are freely available on the web, or “open access” with (OA), and those behind a paywall with (locked). Why do I do this? Some people have begun to question the morality of publishing scholarly work behind paywalls with publishers that ‘make Murdoch look like a socialist.’  I think that’s a discussion we should be having as academics. For those unpersuaded by moral arguments, the purely self-interested academic should note they carry a cost in forgotten, rarely cited work.  Increasingly, open access publications get more widely cited than those locked behind paywalls.

Onward, to the latest research about race and racism.

Research in the Dictionary

 

  • Chaudry, Irfan. “#Hashtagging Hate: Using Twitter to Track Racism Online.” First Monday, 20(2), 2015. doi:10.5210/fm.v20i2.5450.  Abstract: This paper considers three different projects that have used Twitter to track racist language: 1) Racist Tweets in Canada (the author’s original work); 2) Anti-social media (a 2014 study by U.K. think tank DEMOS); and, 3) The Geography of Hate Map (created by researchers at Humboldt University) in order to showcase the ability to track racism online using Twitter. As each of these projects collected racist language on Twitter using very different methods, a discussion of each data collection method used as well as the strengths and challenges of each method is provided. More importantly, however, this paper highlights why Twitter is an important data collection tool for researchers interested in studying race and racism. (OA)
  • Garner, Steve. “Injured nations, racialising states and repressed histories: making whiteness visible in the Nordic countries.” Social Identities ahead-of-print (2015): 1-16. Abstract: This paper sets out some parameters for the special issue, focusing on Nordic countries studied as ‘injured nations’, racialising states and repressed histories. The distinctiveness of using whiteness paradigms to accomplish this are specified, and then the individual contributions to the topic are outlined. The processes of racialisation identified and analysed link the past to the present. There are different pathways, from colonised to colonising, from subaltern to dominant racialised position. The specifics of each country’s journey are noted, whilst links to contemporary discourse elsewhere are also established. Although there are populist nationalist parties active in the Nordic countries, the contributors argue that first, it is the mainstream political discourse that enables the more extreme versions: it is not a question of rupture but continuity. Secondly, racialising discourses that place people belonging to the nation in a privileged position vis-à-vis Others can be found outside the formal political arena, in development aid, national cuisine, and in national debates about violence, for example. (locked)
  • Huber, Lindsay Pérez, and Daniel G. Solorzano. “Visualizing Everyday Racism Critical Race Theory, Visual Microaggressions, and the Historical Image of Mexican Banditry.” Qualitative Inquiry 21, no. 3 (2015): 223-238. Abstract: Drawing from critical race and sociolinguistic discourse analysis, this article further develops the conceptual tool of racial microaggressions—the systemic, cumulative, everyday forms of racism experienced by People of Color—to articulate a type of racial microaggression, we call visual microaggressions. Visual microaggressions are systemic, everyday visual assaults based on race, gender, class, sexuality, language, immigration status, phenotype, accent, or surname that emerge in various mediums such as textbooks, children’s books, advertisements, film and television, dance and theater performance, and public signage and statuary. These microaggressions reinforce institutional racism and perpetuate ideologies of white supremacy. In this article, we use a racial microaggressions analytical framework to examine how the “Mexican bandit” visual microaggression has been utilized as a multimodal text that (re)produces racist discourses that in turn reinforce dominant power structures. These discourses have allowed for the Mexican bandit image to pervade the public imagination of Latinas/os for over 100 years.  (locked)
  • Pulido, Laura. “Geographies of Race and Ethnicity: White Supremacy vs White Privilege in Environmental Racism Research,” Progress in Human Geography published online before print January 21, 2015, doi: 10.1177/0309132514563008. Abstract: In this report I compare two forms of racism: white privilege and white supremacy. I examine how they are distinct and can be seen in the environmental racism arena. I argue that within US geographic scholarship white privilege has become so widespread that more aggressive forms of racism, such as white supremacy, are often overlooked. It is essential that we understand the precise dynamics that produce environmental injustice so that we can accurately target the responsible parties via strategic social movements and campaigns. Using the case of Exide Technologies in Vernon, California, I argue that the hazards generated by its longstanding regulatory noncompliance are a form of white supremacy. (locked)
  • Selod, Saher, and David G. Embrick. “Racialization and Muslims: Situating the Muslim experience in race scholarship.” Sociology Compass 7, no. 8 (2013): 644-655. Abstract: This article reviews how racialization enables an understanding of Muslim and Muslim American experience as racial. Race scholarship in the United States has historically been a Black/White paradigm. As a result, the experiences of many racial and ethnic groups who have become a part of the American landscape due to the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 have largely been ignored in race scholarship. By reviewing racialization and its application to Arabs and Muslims, it is apparent that scholars must continuously explore newer theories and languages of race. Racialization not only provides a way to understand the fluidity of race and racism but it also contributes to the advancement of race scholarship by reflecting on the current contextual influences on race. (locked)
  • Selod, Saher. “Citizenship Denied: The Racialization of Muslim American Men and Women post-9/11.” Critical Sociology (2014): 0896920513516022. Abstract:The racialization of Muslim Americans is examined in this article. Qualitative in-depth interviews with 48 Muslim Americans reveal they experience more intense forms of questioning and contestation about their status as an American once they are identified as a Muslim. Because Islam has become synonymous with terrorism, patriarchy, misogyny, and anti-American sentiments, when participants were identified as Muslims they were treated as if they were a threat to American cultural values and national security. Their racialization occurred when they experienced de-Americanization, having privileges associated with citizenship such as being viewed as a valued member of society denied to them. This article highlights the importance of gender in the process of racialization. It also demonstrates the need for race scholarship to move beyond a black and white paradigm in order to include the racialized experiences of second and third generations of newer immigrants living in the USA. (locked)
  • Shams, Tahseen. “The Declining Significance of Race or the Persistent Racialization of Blacks? A Conceptual, Empirical, and Methodological Review of Today’s Race Debate in America.” Journal of Black Studies (2015): 0021934714568566. Abstract: The sociological literature of the past several decades has emphasized two apparently contradictory perspectives—the “declining significance of race” and persistent racialization of Blacks. This article surveys the empirical evidence in support of both these perspectives and attempts to explain this seeming contradiction. Based on a thorough review of recent literature on this polarized debate, this article argues that proponents of the decline of race argument misconceptualize race and apply methodologies that fail to measure the hidden ways in which structural racism still operates against African Americans today. The article concludes that White racial framing of colorblindness operating on a flawed conceptualization of race and inadequate methodology masks a reality where racism persists robustly, but more subtly than during the pre-civil rights era. (locked)
  • Thompson, Cheryl. “Neoliberalism, Soul Food, and the Weight of Black Women.” Feminist Media Studies ahead-of-print (2015): 1-19. Abstract: This article examines the representation of Black women’s weight in contemporary diet advertising and African American film. It positions socioeconomic class as a significant factor that distinguishes between “good” weight and “bad” weight. I argue that there is a distinction to be made between representations of poor and working-class fat Black women and middle-class fat Black women. The increased presence of Black women as diet spokeswomen is also questioned. The social construction and filmic representation of the African American cuisine “Soul Food” and the political economic notion of neoliberalism are used as frameworks to deconstruct how notions of self-discipline, personal responsibility, and citizenship impact upon Black women’s bodies. As a case study, I examine the careers of Oprah Winfrey and Gabourey Sidibe and the ways in which their weight has been differently coded based on class, the neoliberal rhetoric of “personal responsibility,” and food. I ultimately critique how contemporary media has helped to shape contemporary discourses on Black women’s weight.
  • Velasquez, Tanya Grace. “From Model Minority to “Angry Asian Man”: Social Media, Racism, and Counter-Hegemonic Voices.” In Modern Societal Impacts of the Model Minority Stereotype, ed. Nicholas Daniel Hartlep, 90-132 (2015). doi:10.4018/978-1-4666-7467-7.ch004. Abstract: In various social media formats, Asian Americans have posted angry and creative reactions to cyber racism. This chapter discusses the benefits of using social media discourse analysis to teach students about the modern societal impact of the model minority stereotype and Asian Americans who resist online. Methods and theories that support this interdisciplinary approach include racial identity development theory, racial formations, critical race theory, feminist perspectives, and culturally relevant pedagogy. As a result, students learn to deconstruct cultural productions that shape the sociopolitical meanings of Asian American identity while critically reflecting on their own experiences with the stereotype. The work discussed in this chapter is based on participatory action research principles to develop critical media literacy, foster counter-hegemonic stories, and promote social change that expands our knowledge, institutional support, and compassion for the divergent experiences of Asian Americans, particularly in college settings. (locked)

 

Happy scholarly reading!

If you’d like to see your research appear in an upcoming brief, don’t be shy, drop your shameless self-promotion in the contact form.

Former Adviser Axelrod Warns White Racist Hostility to Obama Infects Politics

Ed Pilkington, chief reporter for the Guardian (US), reports:

In an interview with the Guardian before the release of his new autobiography, [David] Axelrod spoke in frank terms about what he perceives as the corrosive influence of race in the Obama era. The former White House senior adviser said that no other president in US history had had a member of Congress shout at him in the middle of a major address – as Joe Wilson of South Carolina did in 2009 with his notorious “You lie!” rebuke – or face persistent questions about his American citizenship, as Obama did from the so-called “birther” movement . … [Axelrod] warned that racial “fear” and hostility toward the first black US president has infected American politics and is partly to blame for Republican intransigence in confronting the president’s agenda. “The fact is, there are some people who are uncomfortable with the changing demographics of our country,” Axelrod said. “To those people, Obama is a living symbol of something they fear, they don’t like, and some of that has spilled into our politics.”

220px-David_Axelrod

In the book titled, Believer: My Forty Years in Politics (2015) Axelrod writes that

some folks simply refuse to accept the legitimacy of the first black president and are seriously discomforted by the growing diversity of our country. And some craven politicians and rightwing provocateurs have been more than willing to exploit that fear, confusion, and anger.

That is, an entrenched white anger exists on the subject of a black man – with a Muslim name – in the White House.

The white racial frame sheds much light on Axelrod’s discussion of race-involved “fear.” As Joe Feagin explains, the racial hierarchy, material oppression, and the rationalizing white racial frame are key dimensions of the systemic racism created at the top decision-making level by elite white men. Emotions play a vital part in sanctioning white privilege so that whites can discount or disregard the unpleasant truths of racism. Such perverse obliviousness rests firmly on the safeguarding of whites’ racial selves (The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Framing and Counter-Framing).

Beyond US politics, projections on the shifting demographics of race have led to clear expressions of white racial victimization, aggrieved entitlement, and aggressive white racial framing. White elite male controlled news outlets report on anticipated trends with memorable headlines like “Whites losing majority in U.S. in under-5 group,” “White kids will no longer make up a majority in just a few years,” and “Minorities now surpass whites in U.S. births, census shows.” Undoubtedly to perpetuate racist notions of the welfare state, the latter story mentions a seemingly troublesome aside: “[T]he numbers also serve as a guide to where taxpayer dollars could be going in the coming decades.” It fails to mention where taxpayer dollars will be coming from (workers of color, increasingly).

Studies also point to discomfort among whites with regard to the changing demographics of the US, as does the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to nullify strategic parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

“Our country has changed,” explained John G. Roberts Jr. –- Chief Justice and elite white male appointed by George W. Bush in 2005. A well-known critic of the 1965 Act for nearly 30 years, and writing for the majority, Roberts explained, “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.” Roberts held that “things have changed dramatically” in the South in the nearly 50 years since the Voting Rights Act was signed. This was in spite of the fact that almost all US civil rights leaders disagreed.

Arquette and the Trouble with White Feminism (with updates)

I thought for sure that my next update in the trouble with white feminism series would be about Jessica Williams’ decision to take herself out of the running to replace Jon Stewart as the next host of The Daily Show.

Jessica Williams on The Daily Show

Following her very clear declaration about her decision, a number of white feminists stepped into Williams to let her know that she wasn’t doing feminism properly, needed to “lean in” and was likely “the latest victim of impostor syndrome.” Quickly afterward, several black feminists and womanists, including Mikki Kendall and LaToya Peterson, explained in detail all that was wrong with this.  Quite capable of speaking for herself, Jessica Williams fired back at white feminists and urged them to “Lean the F*** Away From Me,” in a counter to the Sandberg-ian admonition to “lean in”.

But that was last week.

On Sunday, Patricia Arquette won an acting award and gave a controversial acceptance speech on primetime network television that made Jessica Williams and that cable show where she works all last week’s news.

Arquette speech with quote

 

Since Arquette’s speech, a rather remarkable thing has been happening. Suddenly, ALL kinds of people are talking about, acknowledging and critiquing white feminism –  like it’s a thing now. All sorts of people who aren’t usually critical of and, indeed, barely acknowledge that there is even something called “white feminism,” are now writing about it like it’s their regular beat. I’m not mad, I’m just noticing. So, perhaps my work here with the trouble with white feminism series is done!

Well, almost, but not quite yet.

Arquette’s speech about “taxpayers” and “citizens” (pictured above) was for many folks a dog whistle about race and immigration. Put another way, lots of people thought “taxpayers” and “citizens” was a not very thinly veiled reference for racially coded language that meant “white people”. So when Arquette joined the ideas of “taxpayers” and “citizens” with her language about feminism, well, the “equal rights for women” part was hard to disentangle from the “taxpaying citizens” white supremacy part.

Arquette’s comments in backstage interviews have generated almost as much critique as what she said from the front stage. When asked to follow up, she said:

“The truth is, even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, right under the surface there are huge issues that are at play that really do affect women. And it’s time for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for, to fight for us now.”

When I read this, I was reminded of Duke University Professor Sharon Holland’s book The Erotic Life of Racism (Duke U Press, 2012). Holland, who is African American, opens that book with a story about an encounter between herself and a white woman in a grocery store parking lot. The white woman is annoyed that Holland won’t move her car out of the way fast enough, and when she gets the chance to air her grievance, the white woman says to Holland, “And to think, I marched for you.”  For me, Arquette’s words are perfect echo of this encounter: “we’ve all fought for you, now it’s time you fought for us.”

So, what is wrong with this? What is the trouble with white feminism here?

As many others have noted already, there’s a bunch of trouble here. It is a condescending move, to demand that “Others” enroll in one’s struggle. The “intersectional fail” that Andrea Grimes is about who is included in the term “woman” or “women” as Arquette uses it. If you ask, “the gays” and “the people of color” to join in your fight for “women’s equality” the immediate question becomes: which women do you mean? Because actual people – actual human beings – get left out of that way of talking about “women.” Arquette’s call to action is one that leaves out queer, trans, lesbian women of all races and women of color of all gender and sexual identities.

This is where many, many white feminists (and other folks) part with the critique of Arquette. “She was just clumsy in her language – of course, she meant ALL women,” or “Everyone is criticizing her too harshly,” or “You think you’re so smart, who are you to judge how someone else does their activism” as someone said to me recently.  And, to be fair, I imagine it’s difficult to have such a huge platform and then get criticized. I also think it’s fair to say that not everyone knows what “intersectionality” means. (Part of why I built yesterday’s research brief around intersectionality.)

But here’s the thing.

White feminists keep getting to drive the bus of feminism by saying “yes all women” or “I meant to include trans/women of color, I just forgot,” but that is a form of structural erasure, as Imani Gandi explains. It’s also a form of erasure to when white women tell a woman of color she’s doesn’t “lean in” because she must be suffering from “impostor syndrome.” Very few white feminists came to Jessica Williams’ defense (or, for that matter, marched in the streets for #BlackLivesMatter), but when Patricia Arquette does her thing (or Justine Sacco), then there is an outcry about hurt feelings. There seems to be a double-standard in which white women’s feelings get special consideration, but I want to think more deeply about feelings for, as Sara Ahmed observes:

“It matters how we think about feeling. …if the violences that leave us fragile are those that bring us to feminism, no wonder a feminist bond is itself fragile: an easily broken thread of connection. Perhaps we need an account of some of these breaking points by not assuming we know what breaks at these points.”

What I see is happening again and again with white feminism is the way it causes these breaking points, if I understand Ahmed correctly here.  So, it is the condescension in Arquette’s speech, which comes from a position of power, that causes a breaking point. And then, when she is critiqued, this causes hurt feelings among white feminists, another “breaking point.”

There is also something to the aggrieved feeling (“we’ve fought for you” and, “I marched for you”) that is a key part of white feminism, and maybe even white womanhood as it’s currently constructed in the US. There is something in this which says, “I’ve done too much, I’ve fought battles for others I wasn’t actually invested in, I’ve done too many favors, and now it’s time for payback.”

Perhaps it is because I was raised in Texas under a particular regime of white womanhood, that these words, this tone sound familiar to me. This is what we used to call being “put upon,” the idea that someone was taking advantage of your good nature. White women, like my Big Granny, were especially good at it: “I’m just going to sit here, and suffer in silence, you’ll never hear a word out of me,” she used to say, with her strong Texas accent and not a hint of irony. She was aggrieved – as were most white women I knew in my family – because they had done too much for everyone else, and, a life time of that builds up bitterness, resentment and a sense of being aggrieved by the whole world. While it may be that a patriarchal culture demands this of (some) women, no one is asking white feminism to save them.

There are other “breaking points” when challenging white feminism. For people of color, the initial challenge is simply being heard, as they are frequently ignored. Once their voices have registered, they risk being bullied and verbally abused (or worse). Most likely they will be called “angry”, or in some cases, accused of starting a “race war”. These misreadings of critique as attack cause white women to further retreat from engaging about race and may even lead them to excluding women of color from feminist organizing in order to avoid even the possibility of criticism. For white women, like myself, speaking out about white feminism is to risk losing connection with white women – and the opportunities that come with that – and, to risk hurt feelings. Even as I was writing this piece, I could not keep from my mind the white women I know who might be upset by my writing this. To speak about white feminism, then, is to speak against a social order.

In many ways, the reaction to challenges to white feminism causes “unhappiness” which, to again turning to Sara Ahmed, can be a good thing:

“To be willing to go against a social order, which is protected as a moral order, a happiness order is to be willing to cause unhappiness, even if unhappiness is not your cause. To be willing to cause unhappiness might be about how we live an individual life (not to choose “the right path” is readable as giving up the happiness that is presumed to follow that path). …To be willing to cause unhappiness can also be how we immerse ourselves in collective struggle, as we work with and through others who share our points of alienation. Those who are unseated by the tables of happiness can find each other.”

As I read it, Ahmed’s is a hopeful analysis for those who seek to challenge white feminism. For those who are willing to cause unhappiness by challenging white feminism we can find each other as we work together and share our alienation from it.

The trouble with the white feminism in Arquette’s speech is tied to the historical past of white colonialism and the messy present of liberal feminism that centers white women’s experiences as the archetype, the conveners, the agenda-setters, the deciders for what matters.

Since everyone it seems is now writing about white feminism, I had a momentary flash when I thought we had reached some cataclysmic change. And then, Yasmin Nair’s piece (h/t Minh-Ha Pham), reminded me with a jolt that Arquette’s speech is a harbinger of the white feminism on the horizon:

Arquette’s brand of white female liberal feminism, the sort that brings other liberal feminists like Meryl Streep to her feet in cheers, is the sort that will overtake this country should Hillary Rodham Clinton finally decide to run in 2016.  Women like Arquette and Clinton are the reasons why I plan on not being in the US at all in 2016; my anger at their myopic, ahistorical, and entirely condescending politics — don’t you people of colour and gays ever forget what we did for you — is likely to result in either an angry ulcer or a deep, long fit of depression for me.

Nair is right to point out the looming white feminism of an Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential bid. And, as if confirming this, in a New York Times report about an event in Silicon Valley, identified the other high profile white feminist in the room in the following way:

“At the event was Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, who was a high-level Treasury Department aide in President Bill Clinton’s administration before becoming a generous Democratic donor. Her 2013 book, “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” became a much-debated guide for wealthy working mothers.”

The last line about “a guide for wealthy working mothers” is shade from the NYTimes, friends, and about as close as the paper of record will get to doing a piece on white feminism.  Until then, I’ll keep offering a context for understanding the trouble with white feminism that goes beyond “people (mostly women of color) on the Internet are mean.”

* * *

List of posts about Arquette and critical of white feminism since the awards show (in no particular order, updated 3/1 12:23amET):

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~ This post is part of a series, The Trouble with White Feminism. If you’re new here, this is the sixteenth post in an on-going series I began in 2014. To read the previous entries, begin with the initial post and navigate through using the “Read next post in series” link. I’ll eventually compile all these into an eBook, for ease of reading. If you have suggestions for what to include in the series, use the contact form on this blog, or hit me up on the Twitter machine: @JessieNYC

Research Brief: Intersectionality

For today’s research brief, I’ve pulled together some sources on intersectionality. The acceptance speech by Patricia Arquette at last night’s Academy Awards show has a lot of people talking about the importance of understanding intersectionality, but as Akiba Solomon at Colorlines reminds us, not everyone understands what intersectionality means. So, if you’re unclear about what it means, here are a few items to add to your reading list. As always in these research briefs, I note whether articles are behind a paywall (locked), or freely available on the open web (OA).

Research in the Dictionary

 

  • Brah, Avtar, and Ann Phoenix. “Ain’t IA Woman? Revisiting Intersectionality.”Journal of International Women’s Studies 5, no. 3 (2013): 75-86. Abstract: In the context of the second Gulf war and US and the British occupation of Iraq, many ‘old’ debates about the category ‘woman’ have assumed a new critical urgency. This paper revisits debates on intersectionality in order to show that they can shed new light on how we might approach some current issues. It first discusses the 19th century contestations among feminists involved in anti-slavery struggles and campaigns for women’s suffrage. The second part of the paper uses autobiography and empirical studies to demonstrate that social class (and its intersections with gender and ‘race’ or sexuality) are simultaneously subjective, structural and about social positioning and everyday practices. It argues that studying these intersections allows a more complex and dynamic understanding than a focus on social class alone. The conclusion to the paper considers the potential contributions to intersectional analysis of theoretical and political approaches such as those associated with post-structuralism, post-colonial feminist analysis, and diaspora studies. (OA)
  • Crenshaw, Kimberle. “Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color.” Stanford law review (1991): 1241-1299. No abstract available, but this is the article that sparked an intellectual movement. Unfortunately, it’s also behind a paywall. (locked)
  • McCall, Leslie.“The complexity of intersectionality.” Signs 40, no. 1 (2014). Opening (in lieu of abstract): Since critics first alleged that feminism claimed to speak universally for all women, feminist researchers have been acutely aware of the limitations of gender as a single analytical category. In fact, feminists are perhaps alone in the academy in the extent to which they have embraced intersectionality—the relationships among multiple dimensions and modalities of social relations and subject formations—as itself a central category of analysis. One could even say that intersectionality is the most important theoretical contribution that women’s studies, in conjunction with related fields, has made so far. Yet despite the emergence of intersectionality as a major paradigm of research in women’s studies and elsewhere, there has been little discussion of how to study intersectionality, that is, of its methodology.(locked)
  • Nash, Jennifer C. “Re-thinking intersectionality.” Feminist Review 89, no. 1 (2008): 1-15. Abstract: Intersectionality has become the primary analytic tool that feminist and anti-racist scholars deploy for theorizing identity and oppression. This paper exposes and critically interrogates the assumptions underpinning intersectionality by focusing on four tensions within intersectionality scholarship: the lack of a defined intersectional methodology; the use of black women as quintessential intersectional subjects; the vague definition of intersectionality; and the empirical validity of intersectionality. Ultimately, my project does not seek to undermine intersectionality; instead, I encourage both feminist and anti-racist scholars to grapple with intersectionality’s theoretical, political, and methodological murkiness to construct a more complex way of theorizing identity and oppression. (locked)
  • Yuval-Davis, Nira. “Intersectionality and feminist politics.” European Journal of Women’s Studies 13, no. 3 (2006): 193-209. Abstract: This article explores various analytical issues involved in conceptualizing the interrelationships of gender, class, race and ethnicity and other social divisions. It compares the debate on these issues that took place in Britain in the 1980s and around the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism. It examines issues such as the relative helpfulness of additive or mutually constitutive models of intersectional social divisions; the different analytical levels at which social divisions need to be studied, their ontological base and their relations to each other. The final section of the article attempts critically to assess a specific intersectional methodological approach for engaging in aid and human rights work in the South. (locked)

Happy intersectional reading!

10 Things To Watch Instead of the Oscars

The unrelenting whiteness of the annual Academy Awards show has finally gotten to be too much. After decades of ridiculous votes, like the Academy’s preference for “Driving Miss Daisy” over Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” in 1989, folks have had enough.

driving_miss_daisy do_the_right_thing

The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite created by lawyer, blogger and social media professional, April Reign (@ReignofApril) has exploded on Twitter, with people posting something like 95,000 tweets per hour. For the full rundown on the hashtag and the unbearable whiteness of the Oscars, see this terrific piece by Rebecca Theodore-Vachon (@FilmFatale_NYC).

So, what to watch now if you’d planned to tune into the Oscars tonight? Here are 10 things you could watch instead:

1. Coming to America. The classic comedy with Eddie Murphy, who plays an African prince who travels to Queens, NY to find a wife whom he can respect for her intelligence and will. As a direct counter to the Oscars, April Reign is leading a live ‘watch and tweet’ party at 9pmET. (Currently streaming on Netflix.)

2.  Selma. The powerful drama about the epic march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 and Dr. King’s campaign for equal voting rights, directed by Ava DuVernay, is currently available on iTunes.

3. Reel Injun. A documentary about the depiction of Native Americans in Hollywood. (Currently streaming on Netflix.)

4. A Good Day to Die. Dennis Banks, leader of the American Indian Movement, looks back on his life and reflects on the rise of the movement.  (Currently streaming on Netflix.)

5. Documented. In 2011, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in the New York Times Magazine. ‘Documented’ chronicles his journey to America from the Philippines as a child; his journey through America as an immigration reform activist/provocateur; and his journey inward as he re-connects with his mother, whom he hasn’t seen in 20 years. (Currently streaming on Netflix.)

6. Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People. A really fascinating documentary that explores the role of photography in shaping the identity, aspirations, and social emergence of African Americans from slavery to the present, this film probes the recesses of American history through images that have been suppressed, forgotten, and lost. (Currently streaming on PBS.)

7. The Other Side of Immigration. Based on over 700 interviews in Mexican towns where about half the population has left to work in the US, this film asks why so many Mexicans come to the U.S. and what happens to the families and communities they leave behind.  (Currently streaming on Netflix.)

8. Klansville, USA. North Carolina, long seen as the most progressive state in the South, became home to the largest Klan organization in the country, with more members than all the other Southern states combined, during the 1960s. This film tries to understand this seeming contradiction in the North Carolina and its history with the Klan. (Currently streaming on PBS.)

9. The Book of Negroes. Based on historical accounts, this is a mini-series about Aminata, who is kidnapped in Africa and subsequently enslaved in South Carolina, and who must navigate a revolution in New York, isolation in Nova Scotia and treacherous jungles of Sierra Leone, in an attempt to secure her freedom in the 19th century. (Currently airing on BET, available as VOD in some areas.)

10. How to Get Away with Murder. This is a series starring Viola Davis as law professor Annalise Keating who instructs a group of ambitious law students in the intricacies of criminal defense through real-world experience. The episode with Cicely Tyson playing the mother of Annalise Keating is some of the best acting I’ve seen on any type of screen in a very long time. Not to be missed. (Currently airing on ABC, available as VOD in some areas.)

Enjoy counter programming your evening. Or, more radical still, read a book.

#JeSuisCharlie? Maybe if you’re white!

Now that some of the dust has settled following the shooting of 12 cartoonists from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, the numbers are in.

According to a recent Pew survey  (n=1,003), 3 in 4 Americans heard about the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and 60% supported the magazine’s depiction of the Prophet Mohammed, echoing the rallying call “#IAmCharlie” that took the internet by storm in the days following this tragic incident. In fact, #IAmCharlie became one of the most tweeted hashtags in Twitter history.
Je Suis Charlie protest in France

(Image source)

Among those who defended the cartoons as acceptable, the study finds two things were key among supporters. 70% cited “freedom of the press” to defend their positions, and roughly 1 in 10 defended the magazine as an “equal opportunity offender” that took jabs at all groups, not just Muslims. But a closer look at the numbers reveals a significant gap between whites and non-whites and their approval of the cartoons. While 70% of whites believed it was “Okay” for the magazine to publish insulting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, only 37% of non-whites believed they were acceptable.

In other words, if you tweeted #IAmCharlie in the days following the incident, it’s safe to say you were probably white—and male (67% of males and 52% of females thought the cartoons were “Okay”). Even among liberals we can see a clear racial divide on this issue. Among liberals, 66% of whites supported the cartoons, while only 39% of non-whites did.

What this survey reveals is that beliefs in notions like “free speech” and “the sense of humor” are colored by race. Moreover, it illustrates that a “white racial frame” was at play for individuals making sense of this tragic incident. According to sociologist Joe Feagin, a white racial frame is a dominant ideological perspective that allows whites (and often non-whites) to interpret discriminatory and oppressive events and information in ways that defend and accentuate white actions as righteous. From this perspective, the insulting cartoons of the Prophet may be “tasteless,” but they were merely an exercise in “free speech,” a core Western value after all. Moreover, a white racial frame suggests the magazine was vulgar and offensive in a “responsible way”—it mocked everyone, even the Pope! Therefore, the real problem is Islam, not the cartoons.

While some have tried to defend this kind of humor on grounds that the tradition of satire has always been to “punch everyone,” my research on racial humor suggests that an “equal opportunity offender” strategy is a more recent phenomenon. For instance, in the U.S. it was only after communities of color publically challenged the decades long use of racial ridicule by whites (e.g., blackface minstrelsy) during the civil rights movement that white humorists began to diversify their targets to avoid being labeled “racist.” Moreover, countless examples illustrate that “satire” works most effectively when it “punches up” not down the social hierarchy. That is, when it challenges the prevailing power structure (Richard Pryor and George Carlin come to mind. See Hari Kondabolu, Aamer Rahman, and John Oliver for more recent examples). Otherwise, such “humor” is little more than taunting and bullying and only works to confirm existing power relations.

Yes, we should all condemn the killing of the cartoonists. But, in the wake of the routine shooting of black and brown bodies by police officers, the ongoing “war on terror” that targets Arab-Americans as suspect, and let’s not forget the ongoing wars in the Middle East, historic levels of incarceration of blacks and Latin@s, and the mass deportation of Latin@s, it’s no surprise that for people of color in the U.S. it’s was kind of hard to #IAmCharlie.

In the end, the attacks on Charlie Hebdo will work to strengthen a white racial frame if we do not work to challenge it. This incident will be used to highlight Muslim extremism and violence as the rule, rather than the exception, and further justify racial profiling. It is worth pointing out that the reverse does not make sense through this powerful racial frame. White shooters are not viewed as terrorists, and their actions are not reflected upon all whites. And therein lays the danger of this dominant racial frame in reinforcing a system of racial inequality.

~ Guest blogger Raúl Nguyen-Pérez is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at University of California at Irvine

Comey’s (and Capehart’s) Uncritical Analysis of Racism

On February 12, 2015, James B. Comey delivered a speech at Georgetown University that has garnered much media attention for delivering “hard truths” about racism in the United States.

Comey’s recent remarks, and those by Jonathon Capehart, Washington Post and MSNBC pundit about the Comey speech, reveal the weak, uninformed analyses of race and the evasion of the institutional, structural and systemic racism in the U.S.

FBI Director Comey (Image by Sophie Faaborg-Anderson)

What would appear to be a welcoming speech that partially recognizes law enforcement agencies’ biased approach to policing is, however, offset by disappointing “half truths,” misperceptions and rhetorical reversals that work to deflate focus on police hyper-aggression toward people of color and ignore the systemically racist structures of the US justice system.

While acknowledging that “there is a disconnect between police agencies and many citizens—predominately in communities of color” and that relations between police and people of color is “not pretty,” Comey then proceeds to regurgitate the problematic discourse about race in the US and the weak racial analysis that focuses exclusively on racial attitudes, as with much of social science (see Zuberi and Bonilla-Silva, 2008).

Extremely troubling is Comey’s understanding that racial problems in the US exist primarily because of racial biases of individuals, a view that completely ignores institutional structural and systemic racism.

Equally troubling is Comey’s insinuation that all Americans are “racist,” a term he inappropriately uses interchangeably with racially “biased.” Comey notes that he is “reminded of the song from the Broadway hit, Avenue Q: ‘Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.’ Part of it goes like this: 

Look around and you will find
No one’s really color blind.
Maybe it’s a fact
We all should face
Everyone makes judgments
Based on race.

After establishing that all Americans are “racist”—that is, harbor racial biases —  Comey continues to reflect uncritically on US racial matters and elude discussion of the institutional racism that runs deep in law enforcement agencies.  He points out the “real and perceived biases, both within and outside law enforcement,” de-escalating accountability of the real biases of police by aligning it with much less consequential perceived police biases, and equating the highly consequential biases of law enforcement with everyday racial biases outside law enforcement.

Ferguson protestor, hands up

(Image by Scott Olson)

While, indeed, perceived biases exist outside (and about) law enforcement, these perceived biases often have substance and validity due to the much larger, more far-reaching realities of law enforcement biases that shape police practice. Biases of those “outside law enforcement” are much less significant in police-community relations, because citizens who interact with police do not have the power and “legitimate,” ubiquitous force (backed by clubs, guns, tasers/CEWs, and assorted military arsenal) possessed by those who enforce the law. Here we have Comey disingenuously comparing disparate forms of biases and unequalized power relations between US citizens and law enforcement, whose biases have much more weight and effect.

Comey also trips up and presents a confusing analysis when he attempts to compare the prejudice faced by early Irish immigrants with that faced by African Americans. Predictably, he presents a portrait of his white Irish grandfather as “hero” of law enforcement and exemplar of righteousness. After claiming that Irish faced discrimination by law enforcement (referencing the “paddy wagon”), he then, very confusingly, backs off this point, noting that “little compares to the experience of racial (discrimination) …of black Americans” and that “[m]any people in our white-majority culture have unconscious racial biases and react differently to a white face than a black face.” While at one point Comey mentions problems inherent in policing “communities of color,” he never addresses the large-scale police bias against Latinos, the largest community of color in the US, a point raised by Juan Cartagena at Huffington Post.

There are a number of other serious missteps with Comey’s speech. After half acknowledging problems with law enforcement’s racial biases, Comey then reverses his position and raises concerns that the “difficult conversation about race and policing has become focused entirely on the nature and character of law enforcement officers.” At this point, Comey quickly retreats from focus on police misbehavior to the “dangerous” environment of those victimized by police. Instead of maintaining focus of the history of police misconduct and discrimination toward people of color, he then begins to argue that “we all carry biases around with us” and “racial bias isn’t epidemic in law enforcement any more than it is epidemic in academia or the arts.” Here he diverts attention away from law enforcement racial biases and underestimates racial biases existing in academia and arts. Do racial biases substantially exist or not? Should we focus on law enforcement biases or not? It is hard to discern Comey’s position with this back and forth, imprecise rhetoric. At one moment in his speech, we are all biased, and at the next moment, racial biases appear to be a superficial or ancillary issue; at first, police are deemed biased, and shortly thereafter, he feels there is over-focus on police biases.

This double-talk is followed up by glorification, no longer a critique, of police who “risk their lives” and “don’t sign up to…help white people or black people or Hispanic people or Asian people. They sign up because they want to help all people.” Well, if Comey’s initial points about police racial biases toward people of color are to be taken seriously, how do we all of a sudden move to a colorblind police force? This flip-flop appears to be one of the most disingenuous moments of his speech, because in the next couple paragraphs Comey returns to a discussion of police “cynicism” toward blacks, noting that “two young black men on one side of the street look like so many others the officer has locked up. Two white men on the other side of the street…do not.” In this scenario, it does not seem that police are being equally helpful to both groups, but instead favoring one over the other.

Of serious concern is the next set arguments made by Comey when addressing the “fourth hard truth.” Comey moves even farther away from his critique of law enforcement’s historical mistreatment of blacks and issues of racism in US society by arguing that the reason “so many black men (are) in jail” has nothing to do with “racism” of “cops, prosecutors, judges and juries,” but rather blacks’ pathological criminal behavior and dysfunctional community life. This is another disingenuous, mind-numbing move that completely ignores issues of racial profiling, hyper-policing in black neighborhoods and the long history of a rigged justice system that targets black Americans (from all white juries in the Deep South to the stop-and-frisk programs and excessive prosecution of blacks for petty offenses in the Northern US).

Comey goes on to present a “culture of poverty” argument about blacks’ poor interaction with police and trouble with the law, in essence, blaming the victims of police aggression toward the black community. Next, Comey disparages black neighborhoods, black families and black individuals whose “legacy of crime and prison,” he states, represent the main problem, fully ignoring how blacks have been subject to the whims and abuses of the US justice system for centuries up until the present day. In an effort to portray criminals as blacks and crime as a black problem, nowhere in his speech does Comey address white crime (crimes that adversely affect US society on much greater scale than crimes by people of color—see John Hagan’s Who Are the Criminals?), even claiming that police do not overlook the criminal behavior of whites. However, as Chauncey DeVega’s insightful analysis of the Comey speech notes:

Police and law enforcement do in fact “turn a blind eye” to white criminals. White criminals destroyed the American economy through fraud and other illegal acts have not been punished. White people have a higher rate of drug use in the United States than African Americans and other people of color. However, the country’s prisons are full of black and brown people.

The white racial frame has even robbed American public discourse of the language to discuss the fact that there are a myriad of crimes (mass shootings, treason, domestic terrorism, etc.) that are overwhelmingly committed by white people. We have the language of “black crime;” there is no equivalent speech for “white crime.”

Toward the end of his speech, Comey acknowledges his “affection for cops” and returns to uncritical praise of law enforcement, arguing rather ignorantly that when dialing 911, “cops…come quickly whether you are white or black.” This is patently false with regard to 911 responses to problems in black neighborhoods. As Flavor Flav perceptively notes, “I dialed 911 a long time ago, don’t you see how late they’re reactin’…911 is a joke.”

Having moved away from addressing the very real systemic problems of race and law enforcement, Comey ends his speech with a one-way concern for police who have been killed in the line of duty. He completely evades acknowledging the multitudes of people of color killed and physically abused by police on a daily basis—indeed, to focus on deaths of police officers at the hands of people of color pales in comparison to the vast number of black deaths by police. Ultimately, the speech is an empty, meaningless, vexing one that deserves none of the commendations it has received by numerous mainstream media sources.

Yet, echoing many other news media pundits, Jonathon Capehart of the Washington Post offers one of many stunted, uncritical analyses of the speech, presenting undue admiration of Comey’s analytically inept discussion of race and law enforcement.

Capehart on TV

(Image source)

Capehart claims Comey is “no coward on race” and believes the “searing and true speech” delivers a “critical assessment” of the problems inherent in the relationship between law enforcement and race, arguing that Comey’s speech “is as important as Obama’s and Holder’s speeches on race.”

Capehart incorrectly perceives Comey’s speech as a “challenge” to US citizens “to face our nation’s flawed racial past…” If Comey even came close to meeting such a challenge, one might be able sympathize with Capehart’s ill-considered plea. Yet, Comey never addresses the racial past in any meaningful way, never addresses the structural, institutional and systemic racism that defines that past and largely places blame on the victims of racial injustices of law enforcement. Clearly, Capehart seems not to have closely read or watched the speech or, like Comey, has little understanding of the ever-present systemically racist realities of the United States.

White Women, People of Color: Lower Salaries in Academia

A study just issued by the University of California at Berkeley identifies the fact that the compensation of female faculty lags behind their male counterparts by -4.3 percent within their respective fields or the equivalent of one to four years of career experience (excluding controls for rank). However, if demography alone is considered without respect to years of experience or field, women have a negative salary difference of -15.8 percent. When experience is considered, this difference diminishes to -11.3 percent. When rank and field are factored into the equation, under the assumption that full professors are more likely to be white and male based on hiring practices that prevailed over the last two or three decades, then the gap narrows from -1.8 percent. Similarly, the salaries of minority faculty lag behind white faculty by 1-2 years of career experience or between -1.0 and -1.8 percent.

How does Berkeley account for these differences? Possible causes include external factors including market and retention as well as social factors such as time off the tenure clock for a newly born or adopted child. In Academic Motherhood, Kelly Ward and Lisa Wolf-Wendel share research indicating that it would take thirty-five years for the sex composition of faculty to equalize at senior ranks to attain equal status. This equity could only happen if there were no gender discrimination and faculty abilities were presumed to be roughly similar. Ward and Wolf-Wendel note that women tend to be older than men when they attain their doctorates and enter the faculty workforce later, partly due to dual career constraints.

As a result, the authors emphasize that colleges and universities could do more to make their climates hospitable, equitable and accepting for faculty members with families. In particular, they note the importance of ensuring that family friendly policies such as stopping the tenure clock for maternity leave are not only established, but implemented so that faculty members feel free to use them.

Another variable the UC Berkeley report considers is the fact that decisions about promotion are based upon evidence presented and judgment made about that evidence. Since no mechanical process exists to translate the evidence into outcomes, judgments of merit are vulnerable to positive and negative implicit associations that can be triggered by factors such as race, ethnicity, or gender. Recall the 2013 UCLA report that identified incidents of process-based discrimination in hiring, advancement and retention based on interviews with faculty as well as written statements. Several incidents involving perceived bias when faculty members believed that they were denied advancement usually through an unfavorable letter from the department chair or dean and/or a negative departmental vote.

The discrepancies in compensation for women and minority faculty reflect underlying structural constraints that Houston A. Baker and K. Merinda Simmons refer to in their new co-edited book, The Trouble with Post-blackness, as “the intensely complicated system of economic access” that defies simplistic notions of personal agency and meritocracy”(p. 15). In one of the book’s essays, John L. Jackson Jr. writes about the stories other minority scholars shared with him in the academy:

No amount of publishing productivity exempts you from the vulnerabilities and burdens that come with underrepresentation in the academy.” Jackson adds, “Being ‘twice as good’ as most of their white colleagues (by objective and agreed-upon criteria) still wasn’t enough to spare them from the stigma of race-based stigma” (p. 204).

And mentoring is also important for women and minority faculty in navigating the internal organization, obtaining help with research and publications, understanding promotion and tenure criteria, and advancing in rank. As Rachel Shteir writes in “Taking the Men Out of Mentoring” women can be exhausted from the struggle of trying to get ahead, with little energy for mentoring others. As she explains,

I see women stuck at the associate level, living paycheck to paycheck, renting without savings…. Gender equity in salaries and rank have not been achieved.

A considerable body of research identifies the role of mentoring in opening channels for women and minorities by enhancing social capital, preventing career derailment, nurturing self-confidence, reducing isolation, and improving job satisfaction.

All in all, the Berkeley study underscores the continuing need for viable strategies that will help retain and develop diverse and talented faculty members by creating a more expansive and inclusive value proposition that promotes career progress and enhances retention.